The Discovery Channel dissimulates

This is how a recalcitrant television station responds to a complaint, trying to make a petulant viewer feel as if he’s been heard.

You remember that the Discovery Channel in the U.S. bought six episodes of the BBC One program, “Frozen Planet,” hosted and written by David Attenborough. But there were seven episodes.  The last one was on climate change—anthropogenic global warming, to be precise—which Attenborough sees, correct, as a threat to the wonderful polar ecosystems.  I urged readers to fill out a complaint about this naked pandering to special, antienvironmental interests (you can still do so here), and I finally got a response—or rather, a non-response. Here it is (several readers have posted it in their comments on the earlier post).

Dear Viewer: Thank you for contacting Discovery Channel. We appreciate your correspondence and for taking the time to share your thoughts and concerns with us about Frozen Planet. Frozen Planet will not be airing on Discovery Channel in the United States until early next year and many programming and scheduling decisions have yet to be made. We do know that the stories, messages and essence of all of the BBC’s seven episodes will be represented throughout the truly landmark series. Again, thank you for contacting Discovery Channel.

Sincerely, Viewer Relations Discovery Channel

Two points.  First, you can still complain until early next year, though I wouldn’t expect more than this formal response.  Second, how can the “programming and scheduling decisions” possibly include the last episode since it wasn’t purchased.  If Attenborough felt that the issue of global warming was adequately covered in the first six episodes, he wouldn’t have made the seventh.


  1. Christina
    Posted November 30, 2011 at 5:53 am | Permalink

    Word for word that is the same response that I (and I assume everyone else) received. It’s good to know that viewer relations at the Discovery Channel is taking our concerns about leaving out this episode so personally…

  2. Donald L. Anderson
    Posted November 30, 2011 at 5:57 am | Permalink

    I protested a while back. Never got any response.

    Fortunately, I watch very little TV.

    Another reason why …

  3. TJ
    Posted November 30, 2011 at 6:11 am | Permalink


    “Dear Viewer: Thank you for contacting Discovery Channel. Now f**k off!”

  4. Smith Powell
    Posted November 30, 2011 at 6:44 am | Permalink

    I got the same response. Now I wonder what changes will be made in the episodes that will be shown as they suggest that the “essence” of all seven episodes will be represented.

    • Posted November 30, 2011 at 10:09 am | Permalink

      I deny them my essence!

      (Does anyone here recognize this?)

      • MarekB
        Posted November 30, 2011 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

        General Ripper would be a great person in charge of Viewer Relations!

      • Thanny
        Posted November 30, 2011 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

        I’m pretty sure the precious bodily fluids of Jack D. Ripper are well-known to the types of people who read Jerry’s web site.

  5. Occam
    Posted November 30, 2011 at 7:13 am | Permalink

    What is Sir David’s take on this mess? Surely he is not to sit passively through it? Has he responded somewhere, somehow?

    • Posted November 30, 2011 at 7:26 am | Permalink

      My thoughts exactly.

      And why was Discovery given the a-la-carte option? Why sell a series like this as anything other than the entire series?

      Can you imagine the outrage if a major network were to broadcast all but the final episode of some docudrama or sitcom or reality contest show or pretty much anything else?


      • Notagod
        Posted December 1, 2011 at 7:06 am | Permalink

        Tempted to ask Discovery when they will be airing the christian fantasy without dinosaur riding and ending as the holey meat is set up to dry. Yeah, but the essence is there.

  6. Kieran
    Posted November 30, 2011 at 7:28 am | Permalink

    I seem to have responded to a post that’s no longer there, feel free to delete.

  7. Posted November 30, 2011 at 7:29 am | Permalink


    Are you trying to use NASA data to claim that global warming is a hoax? And you’re also claiming that the Theory of Evolution by Random Mutation and Natural Selection is a hoax?

    Just what was that white powder you sprinkled on your Wheaties this morning?



    • Kieran
      Posted November 30, 2011 at 9:00 am | Permalink

      My aim was to show that many of the same arguments leveled at Evolution find their way into climate change denial as well. Obviously didn’t do it very well.

      • Posted November 30, 2011 at 9:04 am | Permalink

        Ah — I see. Very well, then. Carry on — as you were!



  8. Michael
    Posted November 30, 2011 at 7:48 am | Permalink

    Dear Discovery

    Please show the entire 7 episode season of this show. I am a teacher who saw the series in full in the UK this year and want to make sure that my classes have the benefit of seeing the additional material shown in the 7th episode on global warming.

    If Discovery is not showing this perhaps your network should be renamed “Censorship”. Either way your decision will make for useful classroom material.

    • Notagod
      Posted December 1, 2011 at 7:14 am | Permalink

      Nice! Caught ’em betwixt a christian death cross and a hard spot.

  9. Barney
    Posted November 30, 2011 at 8:02 am | Permalink

    Since I’ve been watching this in the UK, I can tell you that, in the 5 episodes shown so far, there has been very little about climate change, so what Discovery says is very misleading.

  10. daveau
    Posted November 30, 2011 at 8:03 am | Permalink

    …how can the “programming and scheduling decisions” possibly include the last episode since it wasn’t purchased.

    You’re missing the weasel-wording. The “essence” of all 7 episodes will be “represented”. Much like “Jesus” “rose” from the “dead”.

  11. SLC
    Posted November 30, 2011 at 8:13 am | Permalink

    OK, I just downloaded episode 7 from BT Torrent, although it is also available on at least 2 file sharing services. Took less then an hour for 867 MB.

  12. Posted November 30, 2011 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    The optimist in me says that this might indicate they are re-evaluating the decision, but don’t want to commit to anything yet.

    The pessimist in me says they are trying to make it sound like that in the hopes that everyone will have forgotten in a few months.

  13. SimBri
    Posted November 30, 2011 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    While I think this is a terrible decision, at least it’s better than if the episodes had climate change as a theme throughout and so the Discovery Channel passed up on the entire series.

    I’m in the UK so I’ve watched all the ones that have been on so far – the photography is incredible. The last 10 mins or so of each episode tells the stories of the cameramen and are just as interesting as the show itself – I hope you get these parts and they’re not cut to make way for ads.

    One warning though – it doesn’t pull any punches. I found parts of it pretty difficult to watch and I’m not especially squeamish. I do not like killer whales now.

    • Wayne Robinson
      Posted November 30, 2011 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

      I hope that they dont edit out the final 10′ of each episode too. Although what they chose to show sometimes didn’t reflect what I was hoping to see. I still wonder how they managed to get the fantastic film of the female polar bear stating up her den for the Winter and then giving birth to her cubs?

      I know of some people who watched the series off and on, but stopped because it seemed like one animal killing another over and over again.

      I thought the highlight was the Antarctic wolves taking down a bison. I was cheering for the female wolf who was putting her life on the line in her struggle over an hour. Cruel, but necessary.

      • Wayne Robinson
        Posted November 30, 2011 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

        Gawd, what was I thinking of??? Arctic wolves, not Antarctic … Next thing I’ll be saying is that polar bears live in the Antarctic …

    • Aidan Karley
      Posted November 30, 2011 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

      I would suspect that Wayne has hit on precisely the reason for the 10 minute “Making of” segments at the end of each episode. It provides 10 minutes of built-in cutting-room-floor material which can be trimmed to allow space for advertising to be inserted.
      Auntie Beeb do exactly the same with Torchwood (under the title of “Torchwood Confidential”, if I recall correctly), and I think they do so with DrWho too (though I’ve not watched that for a couple of series now – I prefer Torchwood.
      I can’t say that I blame them : it’s a relatively easy editorial solution to the problem that some countries (TV systems) have 60-minute long hours with maybe a couple of minutes of continuity material at the programme borders, while others have hours that are maybe 45 minutes long (once you’ve fast-forwarded through the adverts). At least this way, the recipient station doesn’t have the temptation to make their 10-15 minutes of cuts per episode to fulfil their commercial imperatives. (Or as bad – mess with their customer’s expectation of programmes that change on the hour.)
      I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it were a condition of the joint-funding contracts between the TV companies. It’s not an unreasonable solution to the problem of differing hour lengths in commercial versus funded TV.
      I’m wondering if the Discovery Channels reference to “seven episodes” is actually a reference to 6 episodes of content plus another episode made by concatenating the “making of” segments.

  14. Posted November 30, 2011 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    I deny them my essence!

  15. Deborah
    Posted November 30, 2011 at 10:46 am | Permalink

    I was not able to complete the form because the “Select” field did not work. More censorship?

  16. Wayne Robinson
    Posted November 30, 2011 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

    I’ve watched the 7-part series, which I bought from the iTunes store in Australia. The series is due to finish on commercial television this weekend, so I was fortunate to miss the adverts.

    Which episode did the Discovery Channel decline to show? The first episode is a general one, then the next four episodes are Spring, Summer, Autumn (do you Americans know what that is?) and Winter. The sixth episode is ‘On Thin Ice’, which I assume is the global warming episode.

    If so, it’s not controversial. It basically make two points. As Arctic ice and snow melts more in Summer, the Earth’s albedo decreases, increasing warming. As the Antarctic ice shelves melt and breakup, the Antarctic glaciers flow faster increasing sea level rises.

    Nothing about the cause of global warming. If you’re deluded, you could imagine it’s due to a ‘natural cycle’.

    The seventh episode is short, less that 30′, dealing with the science being performed at the Amundsen-Scott base at the South Pole, although there’s also a segment about the preservation of Scott’s hut.

    The series of course is brilliant and strongly recommended. A word of advice; when you watch it, don’t forget to put on a warm jacket. I felt very cold in many parts, such as when the Adelie penguins were covered in snow in one of the Spring storms.

    It almost makes me want to go back to the Antarctic and Arctic …

    • Michael
      Posted November 30, 2011 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

      That’s a different structure to the 7 episodes I just watched.

      #6 was about human habitation of the poles (which IIRC had the material you mentioned about the Amundsen_Scott base)
      #7 was the global warming episode

      Here’s the BBC’s own listing:

      • Wayne Robinson
        Posted November 30, 2011 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

        Thank you Michael,

        It turns out that one of the episodes wasn’t automatically downloaded, so I’m fortunate and have another episode to look forward to.

        A bonus!

        So actually there were 7 episodes in the series plus an eighth short one at the end with the science at the south pole.

        • John Phillips, FCD
          Posted December 2, 2011 at 4:17 am | Permalink

          Wayne; the Oz broadcast, while a week ahead of the UK broadcasts, are missing the ten minute Freeze Frame making of piece at the end of each episode. The 30 minute eighth episode sounds as if it is made up of only a few of the Freeze Frame pieces, otherwise the eighth episode would be close to 70 minutes long.

          • Wayne Robinson
            Posted December 2, 2011 at 4:37 am | Permalink

            Hi John,

            Yes you’re right. The short one at the end included stuff that was present in the sixth episode. Not that I’m complaining.

    • Michael
      Posted November 30, 2011 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

      I was going to say also that past experience of BBC productions on Australian commercial channels has not been good given the amount of cutting they do. Remember when Channel 7 used to show 1.5 Blackadder episodes in an hour slot each week?

  17. Posted December 1, 2011 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    Some more on this issue from the daily fail:

    Notice how it says Attenborough is “accused of sensationalism and alarmism” without saying who accused him or why. It also implies that he is reacting to these probably-made-up criticisms in talking to the Times.

    Also note that the article quotes a previous chancellor of the exchequer, apparently as an expert on climate change and leaves this as the final word on the subject.

    Usual bang-up job by the mail.

    • Posted December 1, 2011 at 10:16 am | Permalink

      My comment seemed to appear oddly out of order, but never mind.

      I’d intended to mention that the true *ahem* gold in daily mail articles comes from the comments. The comments to this article do the mail’s grand tradition of selling to complete idiots proud.

      Most distasteful to me as a Brit are the whining comments begrudging Attenborough for getting to fly all over the world looking at cool stuff when the whiners don’t, perhaps due to not having 50 years experience. Oh and the equally frequent claim that Attenborough is himself the biggest climate change culprit.

      We British can be such self-centred, whiny pricks. I’m not surprised that that’s how everyone else thinks of us.

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